Football: Curbishley on upward curve

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THE CHARLTON Athletic manager, Alan Curbishley, takes his unbeaten side to Old Trafford tonight admitting he fears what could happen when the bubble finally bursts.

Curbishley's newly-promoted side can do no wrong at present, undefeated in three matches in the Premiership without conceding a single goal. But Curbishley - the Premiership's manager of the month for August - knows that the spectacular run of success must come to an end at some stage.

"I've been quite lucky - since I took over, I've never had a down side really. I don't know how I'd cope if I was under the pressure some managers get put under," he said.

Ruud Gullit picks his first Newcastle team as they travel to Aston Villa, determined to avoid a repeat of the humiliation inflicted on his side by Liverpool 10 days ago. Villa are likely to include their new pounds 6.75m signing, Paul Merson, and Gullit is certain to make changes from the side - picked by the backroom staff - which lost to Liverpool. "I will take it one step at a time and try to introduce things to the players gradually, like I've done in the past," Gullit said.

Newcastle have selection problems, with midfielder Dietmar Hamann and defender Steve Howey injured, and doubts over defender Nikos Dabizas and Keith Gillespie.

The Leicester City captain, Steve Walsh, is Martin O'Neill's only injury worry ahead of Middlesbrough's visit to Filbert Street. The defender injured ribs in training and is rated as doubtful, but Muzzy Izzet's knee injury has improved and he is expected to play.

Harry Redknapp, the West Ham United manager, believes his new Chilean defender, Javier Margas, can make up for the loss of the injured Rio Ferdinand. Margas, renowned at France 98 for his bright red hair, makes his home debut against Wimbledon. "It is a blow to lose Rio but Margas is a quality player," Redknapp said. "He has played against teams like Argentina and Brazil regularly."